Victory I Cruise: Boarding Ship for Three-night Great Lakes adventure


ABOARD M/V VICTORY I – Entering a ship stateroom that will be my cruise home is always exciting. When I opened the door for stateroom 312 aboard the Victory I, it reminded me of the old John Denver song about grandma’s featherbed.

In that tune, John Denver crooned about his favorite childhood memories of the gigantic featherbed that was “soft as a downy chick.”

That’s sure what my cruise bed looked like. Plopping my backpack on the floor, I aimed to test the comfort of that big bed. But first I had to crawl up on it.

At my average height, that wasn’t much of a problem. Just a bit of a boost and I was comfortably reclining on that heavenly mattress. But not-as-tall folks might have to ask for a step stool. I was later told that some did.

So why did the new owner of the Victory I go to the extra effort and expense of installing deep plush mattresses and Egyptian sheets on the 2001-built ship? Because that’s just the way John Waggoner, president and CEO of the recently relaunched Victory Cruise Lines, does business.

“Our clientele expects really great mattresses and 600-count sheets with soft duvets and fluffy pillows so that is what we want to provide,” he said.

When Waggoner bought the ship, the vessel had almost-new thinner mattresses which may have been acceptable for some cruise lines. But Waggoner wanted to provide the same upgraded sleep comfort offered on American Queen Steamboat Company vessels, which Waggoner also heads.

However, adding that extra comfort also raised the height of the Victory I beds. The result?

“We’re cutting three inches off all the beds,” Waggoner said.

Why three inches? “Because if we cut them down any more than that, we can’t put suitcases under the beds,” Waggoner explained with a laugh.

Good thinking. The bed legs were being trimmed right away and I think are completed by now.


I’m on the second cruise of the Victory I under its new leadership and Waggoner is aboard the trip to learn firsthand what kinks might need to be remedied. What better way to learn about possible problems than to talk with passengers and experience the cruise himself.

Although I boarded the ship in Detroit for three nights, the cruise actually started in Chicago for a 10-day cruise with stops in Muskegon and Mackinac Island in Michigan, and Little Current in Ontario, before I arrived.

My cruise features stops in Cleveland, Ohio, and Port Colborne, Ontario, with the cruise ending in Toronto. In later posts, I’ll share what we did on our time in Detroit, Cleveland and the Niagara Falls area.

Before I tell you more about my cabin, I’d like to share a little about the ship. Built in the United States for coastal cruising, the 18-year-old Victory I had been operated by four different owners and was formerly known as the Saint Laurent, Sea Voyager and Cape May Light.

She was named Victory I in 2016. Her sister ship is Victory II. The five-deck ship has 101 staterooms and suites. Both ships have a passenger capacity of 202 with a crew of 84.

Earlier this year, the Victory I and Victory II were both acquired by the American Queen Steamboat Company. However, American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines will remain separate brands. After all, one is a riverboat cruise line and the other is a small-ship ocean cruise line.

From January to May, more than $2 million was spent to renovate Victory I before the ship set sail on its Great Lakes itinerary this summer. Why the Great Lakes? The answer is simple, Waggoner said.

“Our guests have asked for it,” he said. “They want to see more of America.”

Most passengers seem to be in the 60 and up age bracket. Many are frequent cruisers, particularly on American Queen Steamboat Company vessels.


As for my cabin, it is smaller than on larger cruise ships but it is quite comfortable. Along with a large bed, it has a flat screen TV mounted on the wall, telephone, binoculars, audio headset system for shore excursions, safe and V-monogrammed robes and slippers. A panoramic window offers a great view and has a room-darkening blind plus a lovely roll-down fabric covering.

Across from the bed is a desk with desk chair. Next to the desk is a cabinet with three shelves and three deep drawers underneath. Additional storage space includes nightstands with four large drawers on both sides of the bed. Between the bed and the bathroom is another tall cabinet with door-covered shelves and five drawers underneath.

Near the door is a closet with hangers and life jackets. My suitcase and backpack fit easily in the closet.

Cabin walls have cream wainscoting and elegantly patterned wallpaper. Lights include wall sconces on either side of the bed as well as overhead lights.

The small bathroom has a sink with shelf below and features L’Occitane de Provence shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and hand lotion. The step-in shower with a half circular shower curtain has excellent water pressure and plentiful hot water.

That’s it. I’m quite comfortable here. So now I am off to sightsee in Detroit. Will write more about shore excursions, shipboard entertainment and Victory I cuisine in my next posts. Thanks for reading.

Photos and story by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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